Citi Prestige First Year Airline Credit: Is It $250 Or $500?

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The Citi Prestige® Card is my single all around favorite credit card, as it really wins in all three major categories I think about when applying for a card. It offers a great return on everyday spend, awesome ongoing perks, and a big sign-up bonus. Some of the benefits include the following:

While the card has a $450 annual fee, it’s one of the few cards which I think still makes sense for a vast majority of people reading this blog. For example, my first cardmember anniversary just passed, and I got over $4,000 of value out of the card in the first year, not accounting for the points I earned through everyday spend.

In this post I wanted to talk about one of the specific benefits of the card, which I think many value most.

The Citi Prestige $250 airline credit

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 annual airline credit. While a few cards out there offer airline credits, none are quite as straightforward as this one. The airline credit can be used towards any purchase directly with an airline, including a revenue ticket, taxes on a mileage ticket, etc. You can use it across one purchase or multiple purchases.

I assume most people spend at least $250 per year with airlines, so just about everyone should get value out of this. Using my mental accounting, that lowers the real annual “out of pocket” on the card to $200 (the $450 annual fee, minus $250 of value for this perk).

But there’s one other thing to note about the airline credit — while the $450 annual fee is charged on a rolling cardmember year, the airline credit is offered on a calendar year (more or less). To explain that in a bit more detail:

  • If you are approved for the Citi Prestige Card in June 2016, your second year’s annual fee will be due in June 2017
  • The $250 airline credit is offered on the basis of a calendar year, which Citi defines as being purchases which appear on your billing statements between December and the following December

In other words, if you apply for the Citi Prestige® Card now, you’d get a $250 airline credit immediately, and then you’d get another $250 airline credit early next year, before your second year’s annual fee is due, for a total of $500 in airline credits before you pay your second year’s annual fee.

Some might say “well yeah, but then you don’t get an airline credit with your second year’s annual fee.” That’s not true. Using the above example, you’d get another $250 airline credit in January 2018, before your third year’s annual fee is due.

In other words, if you get the Citi Prestige® Card and keep it long term, you’ll have one more airline credit long term than you pay annual fees. How you do the mental accounting for that is up to you. But unless you’re illogically canceling your card, one year you’re going to get $500 in airline credits.

To provide my own experience, I activated my Citi Prestige Card last May. I used the airline credit pretty quickly, getting me a $250 statement credit.


Then I received another airline credit this January of this year.


That means I had already received a total of $500 in airline credits. The second year’s annual fee become due in May 2016.


So while I received $500 in airline credits before paying my second year’s annual fee, I’ll still get an airline credit with this annual fee, come January 2017 (before my third year’s annual fee is due).

Hopefully that makes sense, and explains why you’re actually getting $500 in airline credits with your first year’s annual fee on the Citi Prestige® Card.

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  1. I continue to be very tempted by this card. THAT said, the ONE thing that restrains me is that AA is not a transfer partner If AA were a transfer partner, I’d sign up in a flash. Thoughts?

  2. @ Jason — I’ve predicted that American will be added as a transfer partner post-devaluation, though it hasn’t happened yet. I have no inside knowledge, but I really do think it’ll happen. Perhaps it’ll come as part of a bigger deal between American and Citi, as American will likely introduce an EQD waiver for their co-branded credit card. Perhaps as part of that same negotiation they’ll get American as a transfer partner. Regardless, I really do think there’s a ton of value in this card otherwise as well. Redeeming miles on American for 1.6 cents each, or transferring them to Air France, Etihad, Singapore, etc., all represent good values. Add in the fourth night free and $250 airline credit (or $500, depending on how you look at it), and it’s a pretty compelling card.

  3. As an AA flyer, I I could only carry one card, this would be it. I’ve gotten so much value out of the this card. In my first year i had over $2k in 4th night free credits. I’ve used the admirals club >15 times, and had some pretty nice redemptions using the points. The priority pass that allows for a guest has saved some money as well.

    This card replaced my Amex Plat and have never regretted it.

  4. Timely post Lucky. My second annual fee is coming due soon. I’ve been thinking of cancelling the card and then reapplying a few weeks later. That way I’d get a second $250 credit for 2016 calendar year and another for 2017.

    I know I wouldn’t get the bonus points again, but isn’t this tactic a way to get $500 in credits EVERY year (not just your first).

    Anything I’m missing? Thanks.

  5. @ Matt — You’re not eligible for the sign-up bonus on this card if you’ve had it within the past 24 months.

  6. It looks like you get 3 rounds of golf also. But, the fine print leads me to believe you have to play more than 3. Is that correct?

  7. I am always strongly considering getting the Prestige card (as I have virtually every other card of value), but unfortunately, it does not give me the one thing that I would love…the same access to the admirals club as my official admirals club membership. As an example, I am flying from LAX to MEL via SYD. My flight from LAX to SYD is on American in first, but my connecting flight to MEL is on Qantas and is in coach. I was told by an admirals club representative that access to partner lounges is only for paying admirals club members, exec plat status holders (I’m only quasi-loyal to american, gaining me plat status but not exec plat), or those traveling in biz or first. As a frequent connector to domestic coach flights when traveling internationally, the Prestige card still does not satisfy that specific need of mine (although understandably it is probably not a widespread issue). Is there a way around this?

  8. Hey Lucky— want your honest opinion. I’m primarily a UA flyer, does this card make any sense?? Need to fly on AA to use the Admirals club, and the points are most valuable for AA flights. Sure, the 50K TYP would be nice (I’m saving for a SQ award), but seems like the only huge perk I could use is for 4th night free?

  9. @ Jason — With the first year’s annual fee you’re getting $500 in airline credits (which you can use on United), so you’re already $50 ahead. The fourth night free benefit has the potential to be EXTREMELY valuable if you take advantage of it, though only you can know how much value you’d get out of it. There’s also the Global Entry fee, Priority Pass membership, etc. KrisFlyer miles are useful for a Star Alliance flyer as well. So personally I think it’s worth it even for a non-American flyer.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

  10. @ gsd101 — You’re right, for that specific need this card isn’t great. The Citi Executive AAdvantage Card would be a better fit for partner lounge access, since it comes with a full Admirals Club membership. That being said, in terms of all the other benefits, this card seems more than worthwhile for an American flyer, in my opinion.

  11. Hey there. I’m relatively new to this, but I’m pretty interested in getting this credit card now as I’m going to purchase flights worth 6000 dollars in a few weeks (for me and some friends) which would give me those 50k points I could use on future flights, aswell as the two 250 dollars flight vouchers. I’m not sure if I’ll cancel the card after one or two years yet or keep it. Now I’m also not entirely sure on whats the status to request this card when I’m living in europe, Switzerland to be exact. Is it even possible to request that card when not living in the US?

  12. Over/under on when they start cutting benefits on this card?

    CSP was too generous -> benefits get cut. Only a matter of time on the Prestige too (unfortunately). Agreed it’s a great card. I bet the “4th night free” goes first.

  13. Lucky, with respect to gsd101’s question, would you still be able to get lounge access stateside? For access to ACs in the past, I’ve only had to show them my boarding pass and they swipe the Prestige card, no other questions asked. So in gsd101’s case, couldn’t they present the American-coded LAX-SYD boarding pass to at least get in to LAX AC?

  14. So i think i have bad timing. My annual fee hit on Jan 15th of 2016. So i expect my next annual fee to hit Jan 15th 2017. I have already received my 2016 credit. It takes about 30 days for the credit to post. If i spend $250 on Dec 10, with the expectation that it will be credited by Jan 10th, will that credit still count? Or i guess i could just spend $250 on Jan 1st 2017, have the annual fee hit, wait for the airfare credit around Jan 30th, then call to cancel and have the fee removed.

  15. So if I get this card and fly american i can get access to the american lounges but if i fly another airline i can get access to the priority pass lounges, is that correct?

  16. @ James — Stateside lounge access should work just fine, correct. The issue would be with Qantas Clubs in Australia.

  17. I had this card for the last 8 months or so and LOVED it. Unfortunately, $450/yr is too much for me to pay to renew. I took advantage of the $250 airline credit each year, enjoyed the airport lounge access (in Singapore especially on a long layover), used the miles for a flight to India. I didn’t even get around to using the golf or the 4th night free benefits…. Anyway, I received a $150 CREDIT when I canceled. That’s right, they CREDITED my account when I canceled and sent me a check. Cannot imagine why anyone wouldn’t get this card.

  18. Lucky, can we go back to Matt’s comment, because your response didn’t answer his question. He said he knew that he wouldn’t qualify for the signup bonus if he canceled and immediately reapplied. His question was whether he can cancel and reapply to get two years’ worth of airline credits for one year’s fee again.

  19. @ Tyler @ Matt — Sorry for reading that too quickly. I suppose in theory that would be possible. Personally I wouldn’t use waste a credit inquiry for $250 in cash, though. To each their own.

  20. On Amex plat we have to select the airline at the start of the year that should qualify for $200 in airline credits. On Citi Prestige, do we have to pre-select the airline?


  21. @ sicce — Nope, and the credit isn’t limited to an airline fee, but includes all airline purchases instead.

  22. This may be a dumb question but does the higher TYP redemption rate of 1.6cents on AA flights work with, say, a LATAM flight that is available as an AA codeshare? Or perhaps more to the point, does the TYP booking engine reliably show such AA codeshares and make them available for purchase?

    I know with other bank loyalty point programs their airline ticket booking sites haven’t always been able to find the full range of flight options available elsewhere.

  23. Hi Lucky,
    My wife just signed up for Prestige thru your link. Is there a pro or con in having myself as an AU? I will be signing up soon for my own card also. Thanks for everything. Keep it up!

  24. I have never seen a direct answer to this question: do thank you points become miles when you transfer them to, say, Flying Blue?

  25. Ohhhhh, thanks for the November link Lucky – I was not aware that the authorized users also get a Priority Pass Membership. I signed up through your link last month and got my Priority Pass stuff within 5 days of getting the Prestige card, but I will need to followup with Priority Pass to get the membership card for my wife (AU) .

  26. I have the Citi Executive Card at $450 per year and the AMEX Platinum Card at $450 per year. I need to quit one of them. As I love AMEX, it really does not give me any real benefits. The one perk is the Centurion Lounge access but those lounges are always SUPER crowded and I do not see their value. The Citi Executive gives me 10,000 EQP (VERY nice if I am short on EQP with AA…. although this year I will not need them to make my EXP status as Ive made it in June already)……. Global Entry is a stupid perk as most people have TSA now …. the lines are longer than a standard line for Security and the $100 Global Entry is good for 5 years so its really only a $20 credit when you think about it per year. I travel a lot and have never used Priority Pass in the last 6 years as Emerald gets you into 99% of the Lounges. $450 is a lot of money.
    My new thinking is to NOT feed on all this stuff. Buy a ticket. Buy flash sales on Biz or First when they come up. Upgrade to biz or Main Cabin Extra when asked for $40 or so… check in bags…. not to worry about overhead space…. and just live simply. I could travel well and save myself thousands of dollars. (Although, Im addicted to all this stuff, sadly.)
    If I were not a blogger that makes a lot of money to discuss this, what am I missing?

  27. Also, I have the Citi Thank You basic card ($95 per year)…. and I love it. I use the points to give out as gifts to vendors.

  28. @ Rob in Miami — I don’t at all disagree with your logic. But you’re ignoring the $250 annual airline credit, which you can apply towards flash sales, upgrades to business or Main Cabin Extra, checked bags, etc. (all things you mention). So I’m sure you’d agree the real “out of pocket” is $200. If you use the fourth night free benefit once at a $200 per night hotel, you’re already coming out even, and can do much better than that.

  29. Out & Out (Prior 2 Boarding) is today reporting on a survey to Prestige cardholders asking about benefits. Looks like Citi may be rethinking their generosity.

  30. Lucky, to take advantage of the 4th night free, it must be a paid stay of at least 4 nights, correct? In other words, it can’t be a points redemption? If it were a points and cash redemption, you’d only get credited the out of pocket cash, correct? Here’s the reason I ask those questions: I rarely stay anywhere for 4 nights. If I did, it would be on a super nice vacation in a super nice hotel – where I wouldn’t be paying the going rate (even for 3 nights). So I’m not seeing how I get much value out of the 4th night free benefit, but please let me know what I’m missing. Still reading your blog every day, keep up the great work!

  31. Just to clarify – if I were staying 4 nights somewhere it would be at a really nice place where I’d be redeeming points in all likelihood rather than paying the going rate. Thank you.

  32. @ Greg — This is only available on straight cash bookings. You can’t use this in conjunction with points or in conjunction with cash & points. If you don’t often stay four nights on paid stays, then totally agree you wouldn’t get much value out of this perk.

  33. On a sonewhat related topic, what’s the deal with the Citi Premier sign-up bonus?

    Was 50,000 Thank You points, then reduced to 40,000 Thank You points, and for weeks (or months?) there has been no sign-up bonus.

  34. As December is coming soon – I am working if the credit will kick in if I purchase the AA gift card from AA website. Does anyone purchase this before?

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